I’m moving into a new job soon and while the focus of that job will be writing, every decent story benefits from a few good pictures. Especially when the stories are about cars. I need to develop my photographic skills (pun intended!).
As I’ve read on nearly every single photobug website, the single biggest investment I can make is time and practice. It’s the eye behind the camera that has the biggest influence on the quality of the picture.
Nevertheless, I also want to invest some money in making sure I have the right gear to cover most situations. I’ve spent a lot of time on Ken Rockwell’s invaluable website and I think I’ve come up with a kit that’ll suit my needs. I thought I’d post my ideas here and lean on the expertise of readers who not only know their cameras, but also know their cars (because cars are mostly what I’ll be photographing).
My kit so far:
- Nikon D750 full-frame (FX) digital SLR
- Nikkor 50mm f1.8G lens
- Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm 1:4G ED lens
- Tamron 18-200 f3.8-5.6 lens
- Nikon SB-700 Speedlight (flash)
The Tamron lens is the one that came with my old Nikon F60 film camera. It fits the D750 so I figured I may as well keep it, though it’s nowhere near as sharp as I’d imagine a good Nikkor lens of similar length would be.
The big question is what other lenses – or other equipment – should I invest in to make sure I’ve got as many bases covered as possible?
I’m thinking mainly about lenses here. It’d be great to have two camera bodies. It saves a lot of time changing lenses. I’ve only got one camera body at the moment but it’s a new one and a good one. I can’t afford to spend money on another good full-frame body right now. My D750 will become a good second body one day, but that’s a few years down the track.
I’ve got a good wide-zoom lens in the 16-35mm and I’ve got an adequate 50mm prime lens (though I’d love to upgrade to the f1.4 if my budget allows).
The lenses I would like to add to my kit include a detailed below, along with the objective.
The Distance Dilemma.
I’d like to have some good tele-zoom capability, ideally up to 400mm. Given that a dedicated 400mm lens costs megabucks, I’m looking at a few options.
Option 1 – 70-200mm + teleconverter
Nikkor 70-200mm VR II AF-S G ED – Apparently a super-sharp zoom with good vibration reduction. Current cost is around $2,400 new or just under $2K second hand. There are other decent Nikon zooms out there but this one’s key because of the f2.8 speed and the desire to use a…..
Nikon TC-20E III (teleconverter) – Current cost is around $450 new. This teleconverter works without restriction on the 70-200mm lens. On some slower lenses, it doesn’t work so well. The teleconverter basically doubles the focal length of your lens (supposedly) without compromising your optics. That means my 70-200mm lens could be used as a 400mm lens, suitable for track photography.
Option 2 – 80-400mm
The 70-200mm + teleconverter is one option for getting decent 400mm performance. The other option is a Nikkor 80-400mm tele-zoom. I can pick up a refurbished one of these for about $1600 at the moment.
I tend to worry about lenses that have such a wide range. Are they going to be sharp all the way through?
The advantage for the 80-400mm is great 400mm performance with vibration reduction. The lower cost is handy, too. The disadvantage is slow auto-focus. A new AF-S model is out, but that’s around $1000 more.
The advantage for the 70-200mm + teleconverter option is great 400mm performance with vibration reduction, as well as having a super-duper 70-200mm lens for other work, when not using the teleconverter. It gives me much greater versatility with what I think would be greater quality, albeit at a higher cost.
The disadvantage is that the 70-200mm + teleconverter option will cost twice as much as the basic 80-400mm option.
The 70-200mm vs 80-400mm question is probably the biggest one I’m facing right now. Any advice or stories of previous experience would be much appreciated.
Nikon 200mm f/4D AF Micro – Around $2K new but I’ve found one second-hand for less than half of this amount. This is widely regarded as Nikon’s best Macro lens, which would be great for getting close-in on vehicle details. Nikon also sell a 105mm macro lens, which is probably the more popular option because it costs a bit less and will do the job for most people.
The argument for the 200mm is that it’s long enough to let you get out of the way of your own lighting, which is important for macro. And as with cars, I tend to try and buy the best whenever I can, to save regrets later on.
UPDATE: I tried the 105mm macro today and I think it’ll do the job I need just fine. And it’ll likely save me some money. Good result.
The equipment above is my main consideration at the moment but if I can get it all for a decent price, I’d like to sneak in a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens. This is the super-sharp and super-fast upgrade from the f1.8 version I’ve got at the moment and I can get one for about $400 second-hand.
As you can tell, I don’t mind buying second-hand if I feel confident that the lens is good condition. You’ve got to treat these lenses with reasonable contempt to really damage them and a lot of people buy a specialty lens to use it just a few times before realising it’s not for them. Buying these lenses brand new just isn’t within my budget.
Over to you. If you’ve got any experience or advice, I’d love to hear it.